Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has been named co-owner of the Rochester Rhinos, a United Soccer League team that has been on hiatus since 2017. The club, which was established in 1996 and three years later became the first outside of MLS to win the U.S. Open Cup, plans to field a squad for the upcoming 2022 season, which runs May to October.
“I’m really excited to be part of the Rhinos,” Vardy said in a press release. “I’ve been looking at opportunities in the United States for a while… and although the club has been through some difficult years since, in a way that makes this more appealing to me.”
David and Wendy Dworkin, who are also part-owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, took over the Rhinos in 2016. Their hope is the English Premier League forward can assist in rebranding the Rhinos even as he maintains his on-field career. Vardy has two years left on his contract with Leicester City and has no plans of retiring.
“It’s clearly been a tough time for the Rhinos supporters, and we’ve certainly felt that frustration as owners,” Wendy Dworkin said in a statement. “We’ve never wavered in our commitment to bringing professional soccer back to Rochester. Hopefully this fantastic news, which we’ve been desperate to tell people about for so long, will give everyone connected with the club the belief that there are good times ahead.”
Before the club’s return to the pitch, the trio of owners’ first order of business is filling senior roles, including the head coaching job and a chief business officer. Vardy will bring along Lee Tucker, who was the project leader at Vardy’s V9 Academy in the U.K. Tucker will be named sporting director for Rochester, pending work visa approval.
Vardy wants to attract talented young players to upstate New York by giving them the opportunity to play on a team that is built in his image. A partnership with the Empire United Soccer Academy and the MLS Next program will seek to develop local talent for the pro game. Vardy said he also plans to bring his V9 Academy stateside.
“Jamie Vardy is known throughout the soccer world because of his success and his inspirational story,” David Dworkin said in a statement. “Aside from the experience, knowledge and profile that Jamie will bring to our club, one of the things that has really shone through during our discussions with him is how incredibly passionate he is about this project. Jamie absolutely shares our desire to give Rochester a successful soccer team again.”